As new digital technology dawns for innovation

New Technology Dawns 1Digital Technology is significantly challenging organizations to re-think and re-equip due to the emergence of big data, smart mobile connectivity, social media, cloud, analytics and the growing commercialization.

These are all driving external technology change, all clearly pointing towards a significant disruption of the existing ways we conduct business internally. So we need to ask “how are we going to take advantage of the potential business transformation?” The issue is how to capitalize and create the value from all this change for innovation and performance enhancement?

***This is the first of a seven part exploratory ‘open thinking’ about digital technology and its potential impact on innovation as we know it today. These will be published daily over the next week. The intent at this stage, is more about raising our thinking on what might need changing or at least re-orientation within our innovation management approaches.***

A number of well-respected thinkers see this as the opportunity for a ‘great transformation,’ challenging much of our past practices and calling for embracing new ones. Ones based far more on open engagement processes and structures that connect in a greater networked world, where reaching out for personalised relationships will lead to different insights and potential value growth opportunities. Digital technology provides the conduit and sourcing to achieve this very different engagement process.

This flow of digital generated technology will alter the very nature of how we reaction and respond in organizations. Insights derived from the data, to gain any real worth, will need to be turned into new innovation activities, new business models leading to commercial or social changing solutions.

Restructuring and re-skilling will be needed to take advantage of this influx of raw material of potentially valuable insights needs as much focus (actually more) as connecting into these different digital technologies. We will need new business practices to accommodate this new digital world and take full advantage of it.

Innovation is caught up in this transformational change.

To be an innovator, you are always restless but the present structures and frameworks that innovation operates within have been often highly constraining and heavily reliant on manual operations. Innovation as a system has often conflicted within the approaches taken by our organizations.

Innovation challenges much of what organizations believe they want, repeatable systems so that our organizations perform like as well-oiled, highly structured and maximizing value by striving to be efficient and effective. Innovation often requires agility, flexibility and allowing creativity to flourish, it often stays outside the mainstream system structures, sometimes to its and the organizations detriment.

Innovation often flies in the opposite direction, it is needing to be fluid, open, responsive, sometimes reliant on the instinct, hunch or powerful insight that is never ‘predictable’ but suddenly emerges from a collision of events, or random thoughts that lead to a new insight, a game changing one. It is really hard to turn this ‘randomness’ or serendipity into a system but not impossible.

Yet over the years we have learnt more about the ability to innovate.

We can provide some structures, some thinking through concepts, different frameworks and tools where innovation can ‘spark’ and ‘emerge’. These can also be placed in a logical process, captured and automated.

The argument has always been that innovation is first and foremost a people’s domain. Individuals tend to ‘push back’ when systems and structures are imposed or they simply accept them and become increasingly disengaged.

The more you engage and encourage people to find time to think, to step back and reflect, the more you encourage new ideas. People have this innate ability to discover, challenge and explore, to push beyond the known and strive to solve the unknown. Many of our present systems ‘push’ to constrain this, they want to measure productivity in hard ‘throughput’ and often can’t accommodate the softer side where the intangibles quietly work away and generate the real underlying value of creativity and being innovative.

The two schools of innovation as the common approach

There has been constant ‘tension’ between the rational school, where everything can be broken down and analysed and then through this work you can predict and reason everything out. System thinking tends to dominate with Six Sigma practice being a good example here.

Whereas on the other end has been the school where randomness allows the concept of chance, without defined plans where ideas simply occur, in fortuitous, often hap-hazard ways. These are often more often by accident or casual connections all being able to come together in ‘blinding flashes of insight’ or confirmation of something deeply felt suddenly triggered or recognized as valuable in fresh ways of thinking, that are potentially new to the world or certainly worth exploring.

Digital Technology will have to cope with both schools

Innovation has to cope with both rational thinkers and random thinkers, structured and unstructured; it has had to strive for a ‘reasonable’ balance between the two to allow for innovation to be discovered and worked through on both sides.

For this reason among others, people are central to making innovation work, they have this ‘habit’ of interfering with our systems and structures. They will find ways around obstacles but sometimes can become ‘blindingly’ stubborn in the pursuit of their thinking,

Digital technology for innovation will still be totally depend on people wanting to ‘see what they want to see’. They will engage not just with technology but with the desire to see insights and new discoveries through to emerging new innovations. The issue is how do your harness the machine, its outputs with people and their constant need for input?

Perhaps it might be hard initially until we can re-orientate our innovation thinking, systems and processes to accommodate the digital technologies that are seemingly breaking all around us today. The quest is in finding different approaches to allow the human side to shape, interpret and extract the value not just in what they want to see but through different lenses . That might be harder than you think.


***This is the first of a seven part exploratory ‘open thinking’ about digital technology and its potential impact on innovation as we know it today. These will be published daily over the next week. The intent at this stage, is more about raising our thinking on what might need changing or at least re-orientation within our innovation management approaches.***

2 thoughts on “As new digital technology dawns for innovation

  1. Excellent piece. I don’t know if the two schools of randomness and rational will ever be on the same page. It’s difficult for either side to listen to the other long and attentive enough to see that good points are made from both points of view. The key might be to have leadership that can quietly listen, encourage, and meld the two disciplines together in a workable solution.


  2. Pingback: Why We Are Entering A New Innovation Era. | Paul4innovating's Innovation Views

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